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Coming out of the closet

By Eric Jeffries --

The term to "come out of the closet" is almost always associated with homosexuality.
back lit closetImage by Darwin Bell via Flickr
However it seems to me that the fears that plague a closet homosexual are similar or identical to the fears that a former theist turned non-theist / atheist / agnostic have when attempting to open up to family and friends about what they think and how they feel.

So what does it mean to "Come out" of the closet about an issue?

To "come out" : Framed and debated as a privacy issue, coming out is described and experienced variously as: a psychological process or journey; decision-making or risk-taking; a strategy or plan; a mass or public event; a speech act and a matter of personal identity; a rite of passage; liberation or emancipation from oppression; a means toward feeling ... pride and not shame or social stigma. In political, casual or even humorous contexts, "coming out" means by extension the self-disclosure of a person's secret behaviors, beliefs, affiliations, tastes, and interests that may cause astonishment or bring shame. Some examples include: "coming out as an alcoholic",[17] "coming out as a conservative", "coming out as an atheist" -- Wikipedia

I found the following article in a dear Abby column, in my opinion Dear Abby's response transcends the homosexual issue.

"DEAR ABBY: I am a 23-year-old male. Ever since I was in middle school, I have been dealing with the possibility that I might be a homosexual. Today I no longer think it's a "possibility." I know it's a fact. For years, not a day has gone by that I have not had homosexual thoughts and urges. I have dated a few females to try to "change," but those attempts have been unsuccessful.

I am depressed, confused and angry with myself. I am becoming reclusive. I have withdrawn from most of my classes in college, and I don't want to socialize with people. Sometimes I think my life is over before it ever began.

I come from a religious family in south Georgia who believe that homosexuality is a sin and God will punish gays. In my part of the country, homophobia is everywhere. If I ever told anyone what I am feeling, I could never show my face around here again.

I keep asking myself whether or not my life would be better if I told people that I am a homosexual. I am beginning to believe that if I come out, my life would be better. I'd do it now, but I couldn't stand that my family would be disappointed with me -- and I don't want to lose what friends I have left. I also can't bear the thought that my religious community would condemn me. What would you do if you were in my situation? -- CONFUSED IN GEORGIA

DEAR CONFUSED: If I were you, I'd accept that my life wasn't working and I'd probably come out. However, I am NOT you. If you come out to your family and friends, it's important that you understand that you will change. It will be better, but it will also be different. How close can any of these people really be to you if they don't know who you are?" -- REF

Why would someone of an Non-theistic / Atheist / Agnostic world view fear voicing their opinion?????

Atheists, the most hated people in America

Atheists Hated More than Gays, Muslims, All Other Groups

Atheists are hated more than any other group in America. Surprised? Atheists know this very well, but a recent survey conducted by the University of Minnesota has provided new evidence of it. According to most of those surveyed, atheists fall below Muslims, gays, and every other minority group when it comes to "sharing their vision of American society."

Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Why are we perceived as a threat to the American way of life? There is just one thing that is common to all atheists: we don’t accept the common belief that some sort of god exists. Thus, the only thing that can be identified as “atheistic” is the failure to go along with the same beliefs as everyone else. For varying reasons, atheists are dissenters from popular beliefs. This would mean that dissent, disagreement, and individualism are perceived as threats to the American way of life.

Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

Now this is very interesting. Atheists are associated with criminal behavior? The percentage of atheists in prison is lower than the percentage in the general population. Perhaps people simply assume that criminals can’t really believe in God, thus leading to a nicely closed loop of bigotry.

Maybe atheists are despised because we’re more likely to oppose the use of torture? According to a survey posted on the National Catholic Reporter, here are the percentages of people who say that torture is never justified:

26% Catholics
31% White Protestant
31% White evangelical
41% Secular
32% Overall Population

Here are the numbers who think that torture is often justified:

21% Catholics
15% White Protestant
13% White evangelical
10% Secular
15% Overall Population

Information cited from http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/03/24/atheists-hated-more-than-gays-muslims-all-other-groups.htm Friday March 24, 2006

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society...

Atheist: 39.6%
Muslims: 26.3%
Homosexuals: 22.6%
Hispanics: 20%
Conservative Christians: 13.5%
Recent Immigrants: 12.5%
Jews: 7.6%

I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group....

Atheist: 47.6%

Information cited from http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistbigotryprejudice/a/AtheitsHated.htm



Interesting Statistics relating to Atheism

Oddly enough peoples with a theistic worldview statistically have higher divorce rates as cited from http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

Religion % have been divorced
Jews 30%
Born-again Christians 27%
Other Christians 24%
Atheists, Agnostics 21%

"We hear an awful lot from conservatives in the Bible Belt and on the TV about how we all should be living. Certainly a culture that teaches the conservative religious values of the Christian right must have clean living written all over it. And lots of ripe fruit from their morally superior lives abounding. It doesn't. Far from it. People that talk the loudest may be the ones walking the slowest. Joining its history of Biblically correct bigotry and discrimination, it is an area with the highest divorce, murder, STD/HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, single parent homes, infant mortality, and obesity rates in the nation. As a region, the Bible Belt has the poorest health care systems and the lowest rates of high school graduation....The Associated Press analyzed divorce statistics from the US Census Bureau...They found that the highest divorce rates are found in the "Bible Belt."  

CHURCH ATTENDANCE AND AVERAGE IQ


COUNTRIES WITH GREATEST PERCENTAGE OF THEISM:

Nigeria...89%...67 IQ

Ireland...80%...93 IQ

Philippines...68%...86 IQ

South Africa...56%...72 IQ

COUNTRIES WITH GREATEST PERCENTAGE OF ATHEISM

Finland...4%...97 IQ

Sweden...4%...101 IQ

Japan...3%...105 IQ

Russia...2%...96 IQ

Cited from http://www.useless-knowledge.com/1234/aug/article194.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence#Studies_comparing_religious_belief_and_I.Q.

In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief.

His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence demonstrated that on average, Atheists scored 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. "I'm not saying that believing in God makes you dumber. My hypothesis is that people with a low intelligence are more easily drawn toward religions, which give answers that are certain, while people with a high intelligence are more skeptical," says the professor.

Leading Scientists Still Reject God 

Summary of a paper that appeared in the 23 July 1998 issue of Nature by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham: "Leading Scientists Still Reject God." Nature, 1998; 394, 313.

BELIEF IN PERSONAL GOD as of 1998

Personal belief 7.0
Personal disbelief 72.2
Doubt or agnosticism 20.8 cited from http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm


The following fields are considered Science : Astronomy, Astrophysics. Biology, Biochemistry, Botany, Chemistry, Earth Science, Forestry, Genetics, Geology, Mathematics, Physics, Zoology.

Why might there be a correlation between Atheism and Science ?

The Scientific Method

The scientific method is a way to ask and answer questions by making observations and doing experiments.

The steps of the scientific method are to:

Ask a Question
Do Background Research
Construct a Hypothesis
Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
Communicate Your Results


Step 1 - Ask a question 

This is step is greatly frowned upon in most theistic circles. Speaking from my own experience growing up in a fundamental Christian church, questioning your faith and your leadership was greatly discouraged. If by chance you happened to work up the courage to ask questions about your theology, answers most often came from one source, The Bible. This is fine if your question was, how should I pray, or how much should I tithe. However if your question was something along the lines of ; How do we know the Earth was made in 6 days? How do we know that all of mankind came from 1 man and 1 woman? How do we know that the Bible is True, or even translated accurately? Typically most religious minded folk would fumble and attempt to answer these questions with the Bible, which is a major logical fallacy. It's much like using a word in it's own definition, and by which logic one could prove the existence of the Cheshire Cat by quoting Alice and Wonderland. Asking foundational Theological or philosophic questions, in my experience, was the fastest way to lose friends an alienate yourself. Most often questions of this nature received an answer of, you just don't have enough faith. If you continued to push the question ultimately you were rewarded with anger or just out right banishment.

Step 2 - Do Background Research

For me this step was the most integral of the steps for me walking away from my theistic upbringing. My entire life I was raised to accept the word of "authority" as Truth. I was taught to get all my information from the pastor of the church and my parents, and I was encouraged to read the Bible. However when I had questions about the Bible I had to go my parents or the pastor for clarity. AT NO POINT was I ever encouraged to look outside of the church for information. Once I began to do my own background research into everything I had questions on, it was then I came to the realization that I was raised to think within the confines of a very tiny box constructed of false assertions about the world. As Gandhi said "He who can think for himself needs no teacher." Which then ultimately negates the need for you to ever attend a church again if you're capable of learning on your own.

Step 3 - Test your hypothesis

This area is harder for me to put into a concrete form. I can only say that one of the major catalysts along with me beginning to do my own background research, was me testing my own mental hypothesis inside my head by running mental theoretical experiments, mostly of a moral / ethical / philosophical nature. For example; If Truth is absolute, then how can it be morally permissible for God to command the genocide of a race in one chapter, then a few chapters later God command "thou shall not kill". If God is all knowing, why then would God create a tree of the knowledge of good and evil within reach of Adam and Eve, then create a walking talking snake to tempt Adam and Eve to eat of the Tree, wouldn't that make him partially responsible for the situation? How can a tree of knowledge of good an evil exist, if before Adam and Eve having eaten of it, there was no evil? and on and on.


Step 4 - Analyze your data and draw conclusions

To me this is the step that results in a person ultimately altering their worldview. If an individual commits them self to steps 1 through 3 without bias for the outcome, that is without an internal drive to prove one point or another, merely to trust in the merit of Truth, and that in analyzing the data, the Truth will become self evident, then ultimately one will discover reality for what it is.

Definition of Evidence:
 Evidence in its broadest sense includes everything that is used to determine or demonstrate the truth of an assertion.

Define Data: 
  A collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn; "statistical data."

Definition of True/Truth: 
Consistent with fact or reality; not false; "the story is true"; "it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for it."

Conforming to definitive criteria, proper alignment:
The property possessed by something that is in correct or proper alignment; "out of true".
A fact that has been verified; "at last he knew the truth"; "the truth is that he didn't want to do it" conformity to reality or actuality.

In my personal experience with Theism; dissension, questioning authority, and free thinking, are not traits celebrated in religious circles. In fact the contrary was true, those who blindly obeyed without question were celebrated meanwhile those of us who dared to question, who dared to dissent were brow beaten, berated and if in the end "authority" wasn't able to beat the independent streak from us, then we were asked to leave.


The delusion of theology

Why do I choose to use the term "delusion of theology" ?

What is delusion?

Definitions of delusion on the Web:

(psychology) an erroneous belief that is held in the face of evidence to the contrary
a mistaken or unfounded opinion or idea; "he has delusions of competence"; "his dreams of vast wealth are a hallucination"
the act of deluding; deception by creating illusory ideas
wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

A false belief that is resistant to confrontation with actual facts; The state of being deluded or misled; That which is falsely or delusively believed or propagated; false belief; error in belief
en.wiktionary.org/wiki/delusion

I use the word delusion because people believe in the fantasy of God, and knock the theory of evolution. I say fantasy of God, because outside of the Bible there is NO conclusive or even persuasive evidence pointing toward an all knowing, all loving creator who brought the world into being, who in his infinite intelligence made 1 man and 1 woman and told them to populate the world through incest, who then flooded the world and saved 1 family, and again told them to populate the world through incest only to a few chapters later call incest a sin... I think you get my point. I'm not claiming that I know there isn't a God somewhere outside of the realm of our understanding, I'm making the claim that there is no persuasive or conclusive evidence to point to the existence of the God of the Bible, or any other religious book.

There is however mountains and mountains and mountains of evidence to support the functional scientific theory of evolution. Hell there's more documentation and eye witness testimony to support the existence of UFOs then there is for the existence of the God of the Bible or Jesus' existence. And yet the idea of UFOs and intelligent life from another planet is a laughable concept to the majority of Americans, meanwhile the fantasy of an all knowing, loving God is fully accepted with absolutely zero evidence.

The fossil record, geological record, and the evidence for evolution is astronomical. The only way it can be discounted is if a person in their theological biased dismisses the evidence before ever actually looking at it.

The evidence is far too extensive to cover here, however here are some links that may be of interest, also anyone who has information they'd like to share feel free to post it.

This 2 hour video was shared with me by Mathew Haliday http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVRsWAjvQSg

Discovering Ardi, one of the formerly missing links in the evolutionary chain http://dsc.discovery.com/videos/discovering-ardi-discovering-ardi-cleaning-the-bones.html

Cosmos a personal journey by Carl Sagan. There was a time when religion told us that God lived in the clouds, that the Earth was flat, and that the sun revolved around the Earth. Now we can see to the outer edges of the galaxy http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4704681445702433281&ei=7QHnSuQ51f-VB5Ow_Rg&q=Carl+Sagan&hl=en&view=2#

Former Christians turned Atheist through education Robert Price and John Loftus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnQga3clwm0


So why are we Non-Theists / Atheists / Agnostics afraid to voice our opinion?


So? Why are there so many "non believers" out there who are content to keep quiet or worse yet afraid to voice their opinion and non belief ?

Could it be because we are THE most hated sect of American culture?

Could it be that we understand that in voicing our opinions, by jumping in the ring of intellectual debate, that we run the risk of losing "friends" and family because of our stance?

Could it be that our longing to fit in, to be accepted is overpowering betraying our intellect and our conscience?

Could it be that in some cases children fear being thrown out of their parents home and having no place to go if they were to tell the Truth?

Is it possible that those of us who stand up and become vocal about our opinion run the risk of alienating ourselves from everyone we've ever known?

If we know that we are in fact well educated and in most cases more versed and better educated on the subject matter then many religious folk, why do we hold our tongues?

Could it be that past experience has taught us that if we were to be vocal about our stances that we may endure certain sufferings? After all St. Augustine felt that the proper response to someone admitting they were a non believer was physical torture. Galileo was jailed for his blaspheme against the church. We just sat under the administration of a president who claimed that God was giving him his marching orders, and those were orders of violence, occupation and torture of the enemy. In our own lives perhaps we've tested the waters of our relationships to see how much intimacy and Truth the relationship was able to bare. At some point we pushed the tolerance and realized that in order to keep the relationship you'd have to hold your tongue when it came to religion. Perhaps because of your job or business you feel you can't be open and vocal about your opinions for fear of losing income.

I have to wonder however, how long are we willing to let the double standard continue where a person can openly state that they are ; Christian, Roman-Catholic, Jewish, Republican, Democrat, even Mormon, Jehovah's Witness or Scientologist and maybe they run the risk of being laughed at or made fun of behind their back, but as soon as someone says openly that they are Atheist they are perceived as evil and are looked down on and hated more so then any other sect or life style.

So I circle back to the response given by Dear Abby at the beginning of my article, "DEAR CONFUSED: If I were you, I'd accept that my life wasn't working and I'd probably come out. However, I am NOT you. If you come out to your family and friends, it's important that you understand that you will change. It will be better, but it will also be different. How close can any of these people really be to you if they don't know who you are?"

I think one of the greatest tragedies is when an individual feels that they have to deny who they are merely to avoid upsetting the status quo. I end with quotes from wiser men then I.

Acceptance of dissent is the fundamental requirement of a free society.

Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate.

“The fundamentalist mind, running in a single rut for fifty years, is now quite unable to comprehend dissent from its basic superstitions, or to grant any common honesty, or even any decency, to those who reject them” -Henry Louis Mencken

“This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
-Shakespeare-Hamlet-



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